I try and refrain from commenting/blogging about the profession, from a professional standpoint as I feel I lack the experience and knowledge to make informed arguments. However I just came across an article via The Age regarding the proposed Nightingale project in Brunswick, just opposite the acclaimed apartment building known as The Commons. I’ll get into the article soon but for those unfamiliar with Nightingale, it is a new model of housing for Melbourne which “is a triple bottom line development model that delivers homes that are environmentally, socially and financially sustainable. Our ultimate goal is to provide quality urban housing by simplifying and humanising both the development process and the building itself.” Click here for more, and to read about The Commons, click here, here, here and here. Or even watch one of the several YouTube videos below.

Now that you’re up to speed on the type of building Nightingale strives to be, now I talk about what the article has mentioned. You can read the article here.

“If you’re developing an apartment block in a narrow, dead-end street that’s next to a railway station, bike path, car share service, bus route and tram line, should you be required to provide private car parking as well?
Yes, according to the state planning tribunal, which has overturned a council’s approval for a “deep green” apartment development in Brunswick after a neighbouring developer objected.”

Nightingale was proposed to have zero off-street car parks, much like its older sibling, The Commons. Typically you’d need 1-2 car spaces per apartment, depending upon the number of bedrooms, which to make viable would need to be situated underground. Any architect, engineer, builder or developer will agree that going underground is costly and you never know what you might find, these unknowns can be risky and expensive. The article states by removing the basement parking, each buyer would be saving around $30,000 on their apartment. $30,000! In a time where we are searching for affordable, quality housing, $30,000 saving just by removing parking is huge.

Money to the side for a moment, if you pay attention to local media, a major issue they seem to talk about is traffic congestion. The roads are clogged and it’s due to increased population in the outer suburbs! I’m confused here, The Commons is situated right next to a train station, it’s literally a one minute walk, and with Nightingale directly opposite, it too has that proximity to viable alternative transport to singular car ownership. When buying into Nightingale, you are aware of the lack of parking, and it seems this kind of idea attracts the right people. I don’t envision someone with a work car, a weekend car and a hobby car would be interested in buying into an apartment with zero parking. However it seems you do attract these kind of people such as university researcher Grace McQuilten, who rents a Carlton apartment. She doesn’t have or want a car: she wants to be near a train station and Melbourne’s central business district. Not everyone owns a car, and not everyone desires to own a car, so why force automobiles onto people?

“VCAT hasn’t really understood that there are different segments in the housing market who are not the mainstream conventional purchasers – there are people who will trade off good proximity to transport and services and jobs over owning a private vehicle.”

I think there’s this problem in the housing market where people build for the next person, who is a conventional purchaser. The architect may want black tiles but the developer wants white as it would appeal to more people, or you put in car spaces as the next owner may own a car or two. It’s like we try to appease everyone, and in the process it becomes unappealing. The Commons is a great example of appealing to the unconventional buyer, with zero car parks, a communal laundry and rooftop garden, rich architectural details and a real sense of community within the apartment. This type of living won’t appeal to everyone, but it appeals to some and that’s all you need. Nightingale has twenty apartments proposed, and they received hundreds of applications for the ballot, so it is quite obvious there are people out there where this type of development is not only appealing, but desired. It’s this type of living that is apart of Nightingale’s Triple Bottom model, where there is not only financial return for the investors but there is emphasis on sustainability and livability.

This is a real shame that VCAT has overturned Moreland Council’s decision on the car parking, and it’s sad to see the objection came from a neighbouring developer. Why would a developer object to something like this? Did they have legitimate concerns, such as perhaps Nightingale residents clogging up the streets with their cars? Possible, but I’d say unlikely, scenario given the future residents would be fully aware of the situation and probably don’t own cars. I can’t seem to find any official documentation regarding the project and VCAT, so if someone does please link me as I’d be interested in seeing why the developer has objected.

Photographer - Anthony Richardson (yes, me)

Photographer – Anthony Richardson (yes, me)

We strive for better housing, not only in Melbourne but Victoria, and Australia-wide, yet project after project we are met with the same dog-box, developer-driven apartment buildings and towers. However, when people try and introduce a new model which improves the current model ten-fold, they are forced into doing what everyone else is doing. Nightingale is a breath of fresh air, it’s something to get excited about and it gives hope for the future of housing in Melbourne, so why are people going out of their way to destroy it? Can someone please provide some form of legitimate argument as to why Nightingale should be required to provide car spaces, IF the residents know and agree to purchasing without?